The Thomas E. Watson Papers Digital Collection
Interview 2, Tape 6
Interview with Georgia Watson Craven by David Moltke-Hanson, part 6
Discussion of her grandmother's cousin, Dr. John Durham; the coming and goings of state governmental officials to Thomas E. Watson's home; vague memories of her grandfather's attitude towards various other populist leaders; his attitudes towards various national figures such as Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge; mention of the Versailles Treaty; attitudes towards Georgia figures such as Tom Hardwick and Governor Matt Harris; description of the switch from horses to automobiles for transportation: driving culture and her grandfather's first car; a description of his carriages; Uncle Gus who drove the carriages; her grandfather's chauffeur Cliff; trips to Augusta, Ga., by car and by carriage; taking the train to New York once a year; trips to Atlanta with her father and staying at the old Kimbell house. [24 minutes, 19 seconds]
David Moltke-Hanson: You were mentioning Ben Blackburn as another official from Atlanta that used to visit and then you went on to talk about the houseguests meaning the people who came to stay, not just to dine, being largely in your memory family members. You mentioned Mrs. Eugenia Lowe of Athens, who was of some relation to your Grandmother Durham and then you mentioned Aunt Jenny Durham Findley from Decatur. You also wanted to mention John Durham.
Georgia Watson Craven: My grandmother's cousin, Dr. John Durham from Woodville, Ga. My grandfather enjoyed him. He was a wonderful. Really, he typified the best of this solid, country people—intelligent, a professional man, but also never forgot that he was a countryman. He had great medicinal gardens and made his own medicine. My mother was very fond of Cousin John Durham. I can remember going there and my grandfather enjoying him. I remember my mother and I going up to Woodville for the day to see them once and I saw this garden. They had had a family of ten or twelve children and I can remember sitting at that long dinner table with my mother and Cousin John and his wife, Cousin Jesse Durham. They had this long table and no people down there. I'll never forget it. He was a totally natural person and he chewed tobacco and I can remember my grandfather didn't smoke, chew or anything. He never touched tobacco as far I know, not in our lifetime anyway, but Cousin John was a very dear person, a very colorful person because he was so natural and entertaining with a good mind.
David Moltke-Hanson: As you say, he was one of a long line of Durham doctors, back to colonial times.
Georgia Watson Craven: Along line of Durham doctors and my mother used to think that his spring tonic was just right and I despised it. We all did. It was horrible. Cousin John's spring tonic was a no-no as far as we were concerned.
Now once in a while I can remember somebody who was of some national interest, not personal friend, but political correspondence perhaps, coming and staying. I remember once a man and his wife from a very strong anti-Catholic people called the Menace (?). I think that was what it was called. They were very nice people and they spent the night. The woman lost her broach pin of some sort and blamed it on our Hattie, who was the maid. Grandmother felt very bad about it but she just didn't feel that Hattie would ever take the pin. A long, long time later they found the broach under or behind the dresser, you know the bureau drawer. Some of these people I suppose did spend the night, but most of them came from Augusta or Atlanta and could come and go in a day. Now so far as Georgia politics is concerned, I do remember at the time of the Leo Frank case, that was a time when my grandfather had night watchmen and Great Danes who made the beat from Hickory Hill, past our home up to the publishing house. At that time I vaguely remember, the next day, I must have overhead it because nobody had told me this, or some kid knew it, and said remember where I was playing in the yard at Hickory Hill, that the governor had been there the night before. The idea was secretly. Now this one thing that you've said in that film that Tom doesn't know that is authentic. But I do remember that little thing. But I do remember that little thing. At that time there were top people in state government who were kind of coming and going at critical times I remember. I'm sure there were others that I just don't register.
David Moltke-Hanson: Let me ask you about what, if anything, as a young girl, not privy to political discussion particularly, but inevitably overhearing some things like you were just suggesting. You learned of your grandfather's attitude toward judgments or interactions with people involved with him in politics—whether at the state or the national level. Three names that come to mind right away are: Marion Butler, the populist leader from North Carolina, whose papers are also at the Southern Historical Collection; another is Bryan, and a third is Tillman from South Carolina; and then a fourth that hadn't occurred to me before but is someone you mentioned having sent a book to your grandfather, Coie Bleece, also of South Carolina. Coie Bleece, of course, like Van Tillman, like Butler and like Bryan, had involvement with Populist causes. Bryan was a fusionist with the democrats, Butler talked with Republicans and Democrats, both in the context of North Carolina. There are a lot of different involvements. I'm not supposing that you would have known all of that as a child, but I'd be very interested to know if you have any reactions to report or other figures. Harris and others in the context of Georgia, politically.
Georgia Watson Craven: In terms of Tillman, I don't remember... I know that he was in the conversation but I didn't know anything about the Populist and all of that. This would be when I was really quite young. I know his name was in conversation. I don't remember that there was anything against him, but Coie Bleece saying... I remember in terms of a dog it wasn't in terms of politics. But I had a feeling it was something of... maybe it was a joke because they named the dog. I don't know whether he was still friendly towards Bleece or not. Now in terms of Bryan, I did get the impression even as a very young girl that he just hadn't no use for Bryan at all. No excuse for Bryant and I remember somebody used to make a joke about Bryan and the grape juice. That kind of thing. I don't remember any specific things in conversation but I know his name came up at table. When you ask my impressions of all these things, it goes back again to the dinner table. This is where you got the idea. He didn't have time to sit and talk in front of us, but since we were at the table, we heard and there was no restraint—well I'm sure there was restraint, there were certainly open discussions to a certain extent about Georgia politics and you know who they were and you wondered what they won, whether you wished you go hide behind a tree or whatever.
In terms of national figures, I remember he disliked Woodrow Wilson of course, very much. Because he had that early friendship with Teddy Roosevelt from the Populist over to the Progressive to a certain extent because of those Roosevelt letters. But I can remember him later not really criticizing but not feeling that... well for instance when Kermit Roosevelt, the youngest son was killed in the First World War, evidently my grandparents sent some expression of sympathy and got back from the Roosevelt family, one of the printed acknowledgements and so on. I don't know why but I adored Teddy Roosevelt as a little girl. I think that it must have been my grandfather who gave me a book called Teddy Roosevelt's Letters to His Children. I think I either gave that to Tom or to Tom's son. Anyway he was my little girl hero without knowing any politics or much about him. He was just a... carry a big stick I guess.In terms of the other persons, of course he hated Gold Cleaver and Wilson. Wilson would be the first one I remembered anything about. He took my cousin and me to meet President Harding, but I don't think it was his idea; I think it was the idea of Mrs. Lytle who was sort of a business manager/secretary in charger and so on. She wanted us to do some of these things. I think the high and might just didn't appeal to his mind at all. But I don't remember any... he just didn't have time to be bothered. Coolidge of course was Vice President and presided over the Senate and I remembered that Grandfather sent him and Senator Large crates of Georgia peaches and that there were letters thanking him for those. He and Large of course could get together on the anti-League of National and Versailles Treaty. I think he was right about the Versailles Treaty.
David Moltke-Hanson: I think a lot of people would say that.
Georgia Watson Craven: Now this is where history has come around to his point of view. The people that he liked in the Senate would be obvious, but those two you would never think of him getting together with those unless he wanted the man who appealed to them in terms of intellect or respect of some sort.
David Moltke-Hanson: What about Georgia figures?
Georgia Watson Craven: The Georgia figures came and went. All you have to do... it's so hard to remember how those guys swapped offices. You know, they were Senators, they were like Tom Hardwick, for instance, or Hugh Dorsey, Jack Slaton—those people were in the talk all the time, but I was not aware enough of it—I was ready to be excused and go out and play. These were tense times and they were all mixed up with the Frank case mainly I think.Before that I remember old Governor Harris who was just before that group—Matt Harris. I remember meeting him in Atlanta. I never met any of those others that I remember. Tom Hardwick I'm sure I did. I think he was at the house once because I'm quite sure that I remember what he looked like. I think he was from Sandersville and I don't think that would be too far for him to drive or come over.
David Moltke-Hanson: You mentioned driving. When did you all go horseless?
David Moltke-Hanson: Wha- when did we go horseless?
Georgia Watson Craven: Go horseless. Start driving.
Georgia Watson Craven: Oh, Grandfather bought a car, a big Chalmers, when we were quite little girls. We must have been six or younger. It didn't have any doors in the front. It had little whirl seats for children in the back, which we thought were just made for us. I can remember, of course, there was no paving within hundreds of miles. The ladies wore these long dusters and veils all tied over their hats. The car was used on state occasions and once in a while to go driving, but he still kept the carriages. There were two companion carriages. There was a two-seater and then a surrey type that were very beautiful carriages with wicker seats and a blue kind of lovely... dark blue kind of broadcloth I think it was, upholstered seats. It took them a long time to get that automobile out. They liked to go with the horses. There are pictures of this two-seater with my father in it in that Kodak book I gave Tom.Then there was another carriage that we thought it was the "clothe" carriage, but it was really the closed carriage. It was all closed in against bad weather and I guess you opened it like an old hackney—maybe it had been an old hackney, but that was the closed carriage. The first man around the loft that I remember that drove the carriages was Uncle Gus. Uncle Gus was a wonderful, old character. He liked to put on one of my grandfather's old coats that he called his gem swinger. It was sort of a morning coat I guess—what do they call them—cutaways? He wore white cotton gloves. I don't know whether he had a stovepipe hat. If anybody asked me that was what I would say Uncle Gus hd. He loved to drive those carriages.
David Moltke-Hanson: Was he also the chauffeur?
Georgia Watson Craven: There were a couple of white boys that drove the car to begin with, but the chauffeur that was in Washington and a long-time chauffeur was—his name was Cliff. I've forgotten what Cliff's last name was, but he was a wonderful man. He had been in the American Army in France during the First World War and was shell-shocked. Once in a while during crisis, this would come over poor Guss and he would just kind of go stone and have these-
David Moltke-Hanson: You mean Cliff?
Georgia Watson Craven: What?
David Moltke-Hanson: Poor Cliff?
Georgia Watson Craven: Cliff. Yes. C-L-I-double-F. I don't ever remember Cliff having a chauffeur's hat. I was thinking last night about him because Walter's got this wonderful man that grew up on the place. I remember when he was born. Cliff wore a soft felt hat has near as I remember. Whether he ever got—I have a feeling that maybe he got kind of a uniform and a cap in Washington, but the only pictures we have, he had this hat on. He was a very fine chauffeur and his wife was a very superior woman.What were we talking about that I got off on the carriages and the car? But once in a while we did go out in the car, but there were only a few cars in Thomson and I remember once taking a drive so to speak a few miles out of town with Tom's grandmother, my Aunt Agnes and her husband, Uncle Oscar. It was in the summertime and our legs were bear and our feet may have been bear too, but my feet began to feel hot. All of a sudden the car was on fire and we had to just jump. I don't think it had any doors on it, but we did jump and we had to telephone for them to send the horse and buggy to take us home. We were thankful for the horse and buggy. That was the very beginning of the automobile age in town.
David Moltke-Hanson: That would have been around 1911 when your grandfather first got a car?
Georgia Watson Craven: That would have been around 1912 or 1911 or somewhere in there. We were so little that we had little white pique coats and bonnets. In 1911 we would have been five. It was about that time.
David Moltke-Hanson: When you went to Washington, did you go by train?
Georgia Watson Craven: We went by train. The car was driven up there. I don't know who went in it besides Cliff.
David Moltke-Hanson: How often did you all go to Atlanta and Augusta?
Georgia Watson Craven: We went to Augusta to do Christmas shopping and an occasional time during the year. Of course in the wintertime, the roads were all muddied. I can remember some of those red clay hills being nothing by mud and the cars not being able to get up and slipping and sliding back and how I hated them. Then having to get out and put a block of wood and all this, that and the other. The trips I made to Augusta in the car were always with Addie, my Aunt Agnes and we would go to the White Tea Room, which was the biggest store in August, and they had a very limited menu, but it was fun. It was always something to look forward to and to see the toys and all of that at Christmas and maybe once or twice a year in between.That was very early. Addie died when I was eleven, so after that, it was sort of come and go. My mother and I never had a car in Thomson so we didn't drive. I went with friends or somebody else. But of course after that Augusta got so easy to get to after paved roads that I remember my little Jewish friend said to me that her father had a general dry goods store, that people would drive to Augusta for a spool of thread. It hurt the little town merchants.Everything was on the train. I loved the trains. I'm so glad you took your children on a little train trip. Once a year my mother and I would go to New York State, Hudson River, Kingston, N.Y., to visit my grandparents there and that overnight trip on the train was the highlight to me. I loved eating in the diner. The diner was lovely in those days.And uh, this is my life and not Grandfather's life, I shouldn't be-
David Moltke-Hanson:Well but no, this is interesting, because-
Georgia Watson Craven: Oh well anyway-
David Moltke-Hanson: You just told me that he used to spend time in the summers at Kingston, N.Y., so-
Georgia Watson Craven: Right. And it was a lovely world. But on the train—this is part Southern I think—two or three years in a row, in Rocky Mountain, N.C., a lady and her little boy would get on and we would happen to be there, so this little boy and I became friends, playing up and down the aisles in the train. I just... I can't remember the name now, but I do remember it was Rocky Mount and we always had the same porter, so it was this little congenial thing going on. Until after I was grown I called him my porter. Even when we stopped visiting in Kingston, it seems to me that one time when I was going to school I met him. We could go either on the Atlantic coastline or the Southern. I've forgotten which route he was on.Anyway, I loved the trains and I hated to see those go. I wish they'd come back in—not just the $1,000 between Chicago and New York, but a decent train. Not that I can go on them, but I'd like for American kids to know.
David Moltke-Hanson:What about your trips to Atlanta?
Georgia Watson Craven: The trips to Atlanta I can remember going with my father once. We stayed at the old Kimbell once. I can remember staying at the Ainsley. I remember going to eat once at the old Kimbell house. It was right near the railroad station because we were getting on the train or something.